“Your daughter is having a lot of sex”

After the first monsoon rains are over, me and mom go foraging for mushrooms in our backyard which seem to blossom overnight, similarly when a girl or boy comes of age in India there are a lot of people who seem to appear in their lives like these monsoon mushrooms. It is almost like you are graduating in life from a learner’s license to a real one and you are somehow starting to figure out which way to go but suddenly one day, you are shoved off in a hurry from the driver’s seat and they take over and drive off seemingly having discussions and arguments among themselves. You just end up being a spectator of this strange dance.

Back home we collectively call them uncles and aunts, not that our parents have so many siblings, its just a polite way of addressing a disparate group of people united by the single most aim of getting you into that wedding dress.  They include real uncles and aunts, neighbors, your friends’ parents, your postman, the person who comes to read the electricity meter at your home and in a lot of the cases an astrologer.

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An astrologer and I have a lot in common, we both are keenly interested in the motion of the moon and the planets. While my interest is more curiosity driven and includes a lot of Python programming, an astrologer gives out more of a Prof. Trelawney vibe. “You have the GRIM Harry arghhh”, not exactly that, but you get the picture, right?

Depending on where your parents stand on the atheist-religious-theist scale, a visit to an astrologer can have lasting effects on one’s  life. A lot of my friends were married off at the age of 21 because otherwise their planets aligned only when they were 32 which is of course code for too old to to be in the wedding market.

When it comes to matters related to religion my father is a firm believer in everything and my mother is also somewhere around that ball park. Since I am 28 and as single as a person can be, they decided to take my horoscope to our family astrologer (yes we have one). He told my mom outright that “your daughter is having a lot of sex”.

Now, this is no joke for my parents and a lot of Indian parents for that matter. When you look beyond the glitz and glamour of westernized big urban Indian cities there are a lot of places where dating is still not part of the vocabulary, where talks about sex is always done in hushed tones and sex before marriage is still a taboo. Virginity is a measure of a girl’s honor and worthiness. Almost all religions celebrate delayed gratification and in this case a girl who can’t wait to have a husband for sex is deemed loose and if she has had more then one sexual partners then by all definitions of that word a ‘whore’.

My mom didn’t even ask me if I was in a sexual relationship with someone, she just assumed I was not. Because I was raised to be a good girl and good girls never dare do anything out of the behavioral checklist that society shoves on them.

Should I tell her that I stopped being a good girl a while ago?

Love,

Jo

Mental health over every damn thing

Do you know that ideal image of a ‘self made person’ ? How about we stop celebrating that?

We talk a lot about mental health stigma these days, but isn’t an important piece missing in those discussions? The stigma inside our heads? The voice that keeps us from reaching out for help? The voice that tells us constantly to be an adult and get over it? To try a bit harder?

One of the hardest challenges I have faced in the past seven months of organizing a support group is convincing people that it is okay to get some help. No one, not one person who showed up believed that they deserved  help. The discussions always went in the direction of ‘there are so many people in the world that have it worse, maybe I should stop complaining’. This involved a girl who wanted to die at the age of seven because her alcoholic parents threw her out of her home, not that you need such a reason to feel bad, just so you get an idea of how far the stigma goes!

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Found here

May be you are right, things aren’t so bad for you now. But does that mean you should wait until it gets worse?  If you were having a flu would you feel guilty for taking a day off?  Would you feel guilty going to a doctor if the flu doesn’t get better after a few days? Imagine that you mind had a small flu if it helps.

May be it is not that you are not trying hard enough, may be you are not getting the right kind of help.

Let me tell you a story, there was a time when self harm was my answer to pain. I found refuge in that. I didn’t know it was something other people also did. I felt ashamed, and  told myself a million times not to do it, it didn’t work, people told me not to do it, it didn’t work. Then I went to the clinic and there they asked me to try holding an ice pack, or to try drawing on my body with a red pen, or to put a cream on my skin that gives a burning sensation but doesn’t do any  real damage, and some of those things worked and they still help me when I get that urge again.Do you see what I am trying to say? There are a lot of resources out there that you might not know of.

Don’t get me wrong, we all have strengths within us to do every fucking thing, but does that mean we always have to do things alone?

I cannot think of many things that are important than your health and that involves your mental health as well. Please put it above every damn thing!

Love ,

Jo

 

 

Beginner’s tips to be more sustainable

A major portion of a remote sensing researcher’s job involves looking at the images of earth taken from outer space, and then somehow it is impossible not to care about our one and only home (yet, because Elon Musk is on it). A few months ago a couple of us started a local meetup called swap this for that, we were all book hoaders and  wanted a place to simply hoard more of it. But that also got us thinking and talking more about the subject of sustainability in general. Here are a few simple things that we have been trying to practice for sometime now. This might only be useful for people who are beginners in this area.

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Recycle, Reuse and Repair– As much as you can. There are enough videos online that teaches us how to convert an old rug into a magnificient throw. Repairing may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It definitely wasn’t mine. But, there are repair cafes in most cities that lets you walk in with your broken stuff and get it repaired. They are also always more than happy to hold ‘Repairing for dummies’ sort of workshops. If you are in an adventrous mood open up your broken CD player and a wikihow page and go wild.

Meatless days-  Or reducing the meat intake in general.

Reducing use of plastic bags/ Carrying a shopping bag always-  This would help reduce the piling up of plastic bags in unknown corners of our homes

Buying second hand stuff– It might be icky for some people to use second hand clothes but you can still buy used books, furniture, jewellery etc

Reusable travel mug-  reusable travel mug, a good waterbottle and a lunch box (steel or glass if you feel hipstery)

Plan ahead on what you eat– Looking into your refrigarator and planning your meals ahead. Trying to use things that spoil first, although this is common sense most of us have difficulty following it on a daily basis.

Being careful of your water usage– This can be while washing dishes, taking a shower, or doing laundry.

Reusing plastic bags as much as possible without discarding it after a single  use

Love,

Jo

A week in sketching

HP
Because Patronus takes time

What scares you the most? Does it help to make fun of it?

Doodles
Charcoal on paper

Trying to loosen up and let go of the need to be perfect all the time.

Tadpole
The Tadpole Nebula: Acrylic on paper

Because The Hubble telescope is the coolest and every image it takes is magical

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Tiny moon: Acrylic on canvas

I don’t know if I have mentioned it here but I am a space researcher and a                                  lover of everything Apollo and Gemini.

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Aurora Boreolis: Acrylic on paper

Northern lights are gorgeous, aren’t they?

 

Hope you all are having a good Sunday

Love,

Jo

The ways art can help

Kandinsky heard brassy trumpet tones when he painted the color yellow. He theorized that by mixing colors you can produce vibrational frequencies like the chords on a piano. That was his motivation when he painted a series of ten Compositions, each of which supposedly could evoke a spiritual resonance with the viewer. In other words each of these paintings can make us feel like we are listening to musical piece. I knew none of this when I first saw the following painting.

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Composition vii (1913): Wassily Kandinsky

This painting was on the walls of the clinic corridor the first time I was here. Kandinsky’s name sounded vaguely familiar. Back then modern art made me feel really insecure.Every modern abstract art piece made me feel two things, the first thought is kind of universal, 1. My cat can do this and then 2.I don’t understand this but I am going to pretend like I do because everyone else thinks this is cool. My feelings for composition vii were no different at first. But every time I walked past it I was stopping for a couple of seconds to catch a glimpse. Then one day one of the night nurses had to bring me a chair because I was apparently standing and staring at this painting for according to her Eine ewigkeit. Also, it would be nice to point out that it was a time when I had given up on getting better. So why was I looking at this my-cat-can-do painting at 3 am in the morning? The simplest answer would be that it made me feel something. And that something came after several long days of nothingness. And that meant a whole lot.

That was two years ago, over this time I have learned that Kandinsky had lived, learned and painted in Munich. Now I hold a yearly pass to the Lenbachhaus which holds many of his works. One of the interesting things I saw there is the preparatory works  Kandinsky made for this particular Composition, Composition vii. More than 30 paintings in watercolors and oil precede the final piece. So every brush stroke, every color in this painting is deliberately planned. Okay, my cat won’t be able to do that.

The good thing about an inpatient psychiatric clinic (a good one) is that it introduces you to a lot of things, medication, mindfulness, sports, arts, psychotherapy, cooking, gardening and the list goes on. This is saying something very important about mental health care in general. There is no one-cure-for-all when it comes to mental health. It might one of these things that helps you or it might be all of these things. For me it apparently is art.

I have come a long long way since the night I felt an emotional resonance with a painting that was made 104 years before I was born.

Now when I think back to that day I think I realize why it was so powerful. Back then people were telling me about how if I took up jogging or meditation or prayer, things might get better, but that painting showed me a glimpse of that ‘better’.

I cannot possibly end this without telling you about my favorite painting.

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Nighthawks (1942) : Edward Hopper

 

I have written here before about how I want to build a used bookstore+art salon that is open at 3am. This painting for me captures a lot of intangible complexities of that time. More on that later.

Thanks for all the emails and messages after reading my last post. It really meant a lot <3.

Love

Jo

A letter from the rehab

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I ended up at the rehab again. This is the third time in the past three years. Things have gotten a lot better during this time. My doctor told to think of this as a pause and not a step back. So that is what I am doing.

I wanted writing to be my thing. The thing that would help me through the blues but apparently it isn’t. Finishing that short paragraph took a lot of mental gymnastics.

There is a lady here who is perpetually talking, she just told me to ‘fuck off’ in German. It’s nothing personal, she says that to everyone.

I have been taking six showers a day because it helps, I know it is bad for the environment but I am not eating meat for now, so hope that evens it out?

We wake up at 6.45 everyday.

Someone plays the piano everyday.

There is a new print of the Nighthawks on the wall, it wasn’t here last year. I can look at all day.

I take therapy in German which is also different from the last two times.

They still call me by my last name which I hate.

Why do hospital food always suck?

We eat breakfast in silence, we talk a lot during lunch and eat dinner again in silence. I wonder why that is.

Sometimes we play board games.

My roommate has to pack her entire suitcase every time she leaves the room. She is scared I am going to steal her things. But she is nice to me otherwise.

She snores but I don’t mind.

It has been raining a lot.

I am rereading the harry potter series.

Is it different to be depressed when you have money? Yes, it is a lot better when you can buy books and art supplies (also, when you are not worried about how to make rent) So now I buy my share of happiness with money. That helps.

I don’t know what to tell my friends, they think I am on holidays.

My boss knows, he said to take my time. How do I always end up with kind people?

It would have been nice to have someone to hug.

I have been painting a lot, sometimes that is all I do. Is any of you on Instagram? you can find me as @galaxiesinamasonjar. I pretend to be funny there, that helps too

Love,

Jo

 

40 feel good activities for when you are broke

Walking barefoot in the sand.

Painting with your hands.

Writing a postcard to your favorite author/singer/actor.

Sending that postcard.

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Handwritten letters.

Learning the lyrics to your favorite song.

Singing along to your favorite song.

Singing along to your favorite song in the shower.

Long showers.

Putting up fairy lights in your room.

Making a collage of all your favorite photos.

Going to the explore page of Instagram.

 

Memorizing your favorite poem.

Going to the sneak previews.

Volunteering at a film festival.

Burning an incense.

Burning candles.

Thrift store shopping.

Picnic in the park by yourself.

Picnic in the park with your buddies.

Writing a letter to your crush that you would never dare send.

Find out if there is a Museum day in your city and going art watching.

Inviting a friend over for a movie night.

Trying a new hairstyle from a YouTube tutorial.

Free hugs.

Going crazy at an All-you-can-eat-buffet.

Putting on your favorite dress and watching Netflix.

Find out a part of your city you haven’t seen and be a tourist for a day.

Go on free walking tours.

Sky gazing.

Learning to identify one constellation other than the The big Dipper or Cassiopeia.

Watching the sunrise.

Watching the sunset.

Rereading your favorite book (hint:The harry potter series).

Photoshop yourself to a picture of a place that you really want to visit.

Reorganize your room.

Draw on your walls.

Drawing stars on your ceiling.

Building a water bottle rocket.

Starting a Youtube channel/ WordPress blog/ Instagram page for that skill you have been hiding all along.